Other than fabric, there may be no more important part of a suit’s anatomy than it’s lapel. In many ways, the lapel is the linchpin of a suit, and it can determine both the style and formality of the suit or tux it’s attached to. That makes choosing the right shape, size and style of lapel a critical factor in getting the ideal suit. There’s such a broad range of shapes and widths happening these days, from skinny to shawl, so it can be confusing-as-hell. But, arming yourself with a bit of background knowledge is going to cut through all the BS make the selection process a snap.
Before you dive into widths, it’s important to know the ins and outs of the various types (or shapes) of lapels, and where and how they’re best deployed.
Notch - The standard you’re probably most familiar with, the notch lapel is also the most versatile. At home on both suiting and tuxedos, it works with every body type and adapts to a variety of widths. As you can imagine, it gets its name from the step-like notch that’s cut out of the lapel. The lapel point should typically sit at about mid-chest.
Peak - The most formal of all the lapels, a peaked lapel is traditionally found on tuxedos and double-breasted suits but they add a bold look to standard suiting as well. They have an upward-facing “peak” and the lapel point sits high on the chest closer to the shoulder and neck.
Shawl - The shawl lapel is a classic style with a throwback vibe. It comes in varying widths and features a straight, unbroken design with no cutouts. The shawl lapel is most at home in the formalwear arena on tuxedos and dinner jackets.
Now that you’ve got a handle on the different lapel types, let’s talk about varying widths and how they should work with lapel types. While there are other factors at play, lapel widths should coincide generally with your body type (slim, broad, etc) and work with your shape, not against it. For a bit more info on finding the right suit for your body type, check out this piece right here.
Slim - A typical slim lapel falls around the 2.5-inch mark and works best with a notch lapel. Any thinner and you’re risking wannabe-rocker skinny territory and it’s probably not going to be at home in a professional environment.
Medium - Landing at around the 3-inch mark, a standard medium width lapel is going to be versatile enough to accommodate a variety of different body types and suit styles. If you’re looking for a lapel width that is timeless and flexible, this is it. A medium width is standard for most lapel types and works well with everything from notch to shawl.
Wide - Most wider lapels fall around the 3.5-inch mark and have seen a recent resurgence in popularity thanks to the return of bolder, Italian-influenced suiting styles. They’re definitely a bolder look and a wider lapel is going to enhance your shoulder width and give you that nice v-shaped torso we’re all after, regardless of how many Crossfit WODs you’re putting in. Like a medium width, a wider-sized lapel works well with all lapel types, especially peak and notch.